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The Places

In and around the village of Hunton

photograph: White Bridge, Hunton
White Bridge, Hunton

Hunton is a small, surprisingly plain village compared with the picturesque villages nearby and the very beautiful surrounding countryside of Wensleydale and Swaledale in north Yorkshire. These two dales, together with several others, comprise the area often known as Richmondshire. Only six miles from Hunton is the very lovely and historic town of Richmond, 'Gateway to the Dales', with its cobbled market place and ancient 'wynds' which join the old town to elegant Georgian thoroughfares and lovely gardens. There are magnificent views from the town's lofty castle tower. Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal is unique: the oldest theatre in the UK surviving in its original form, and the nearby Richmondshire Museum is well worth a visit, too.

Many famous people and events are asociated with the area. Swaledale and Wensleydale provided the subjects for some of the finest watercolours by the famous English painter J M W Turner (1775-1851), who made four tours through Richmondshire, in 1797, 1816, 1817 and 1831. In 1816 during a three week tour through northern England, he made over 400 drawings of the area's towns, villages, abbeys, rivers, waterfalls and castles. A series of seats has now been placed throughout Richmondshire at some of the places associated with Turner. The nearest to Hunton is probably the one at Constable Burton.

Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) went to school at Swale House, Richmond; Cherry and Richard Kearton, the famous naturalists, grew up at Thwaite and went to school in Muker. Francis l'Anson (Lass of Richmond Hill) lived at Hill House, Richmond. Many of the scenes from the films of the famous vet James Herriot were shot in Wensleydale, though none, as far as we know, near Hunton.

Hunton itself is a long straggling village forming a letter 'Y' and consists mainly of rows of houses on both sides of three roads, and two offshoot lanes with houses along their length. Several little streams meet and run through the village, and there is even a ford. The village probably took its name from the Hunton family, long associated with the area: in the reign of King John (1199-1216), a Roger de Hunton was one of the witnesses to a grant of land to the nuns of Marrick, Yorkshire. There used to be a small church, St Johns, rebuilt in 1794 by Gregory Eisley, Esq, and also a Wesleyan chapel, built in 1829. However, as far as we know, the Dumvilles of Hunton went to the larger church of St Patrick at nearby Patrick Brompton for their baptisms, burials, and some marriages.

In a letter to the Dalesman magazine of March 1990 a former resident, Chris Richmond, of Daventry, recalled the village in the period from 1914 onwards:

'Hunton then was a busy place with the start of Catterick Camp and many of its residents were employed there. In the old days a glove factory was situated near the Y-junction and there were three public houses, a thriving church and chapel community and later a catholic church and a Women's Institute. My father was a well-known builder who was responsible for building the school porch in 1904, and a detached house at the Bedale end of the village known as Richmond House which he sold for the princely sum of £200. I look back with affection on my childhood in Hunton and all those good people who lived and worked there, and the excellent school I attended...'

'Our' Robert Dumville lived in Hunton from the 1790s until he died there in 1857. From the 1848 tithe records we know that he rented the field called Chapel Garth, immediately below (south side) the tiny disused chapel on the road leading north out of Hunton, just up the road from the Countryman's Inn. When I (Jill Holroyd) visited a few years ago, I found only a very old tumbledown building, at the south end of the field, overgrown with brambles and other weeds: probably a barn, with an old horseshoe on one of the doors, and several now wild fruit trees nearby, including an enormous pear-tree, so huge it could well have been planted in Robert's time. The 1848 tithe records read:

Landowner: Robert Tinker, Occupiers: Robert Dumbill and Matthew Todd
State of cultivation: grass; Size: 2 rods, 36 perches
Robert had to pay four shillings rental to C H Elsley Esq (a major landowner in the area and owner of Brompton Hall at Patrick Brompton); nothing to the landowner

Robert's youngest daughter Elizabeth (1830-1907) married Robert Lawson, and Hunton's 1851 census shows the couple living next-door to her elderly father, his second wife Elizabeth, their 26 year old son James and four year old grandson Robert. With Robert and Elizabeth Lawson is their three month old daughter Elizabeth. Robert Lawson later became a grocer and shopkeeper in Hunton. Bulmer's 'History and Directory of North Yorkshire' for 1890 lists several grocers and other businesses in Hunton; I believe the only shop now (2003) is a post office/general village store.

Why did Robert (1760s-1857) and Margery Dumville choose to settle in Hunton in the 1790s? Could the reason for him becoming the molecatcher of Hunton be something to do with the abundance of valuable horses in the surrounding area? Moles and their hills can easily trip up these horses, with fatal, and expensive, consequences. (Other valuable livestock too, of course.)

Just down the road from Hunton is Constable Burton Park, with its magnificent Hall, an estate of over 2,500 acres. A 1771 map (Jeffery's survey) shows a large part of the estate is fenced off as a 'foal park' belonging to Marmaduke Wyvil. And many other places near Hunton have long been associated with horse-breeding, training and racing. Plenty of work for good molecatchers here!

We would be very interested to learn more about Hunton and its history.

Geoff Brown, who is a great-grandson of James Dumville (1856-1920) and a grandson of Mary Ann Brown (née Dumville) (1880-1947), provided the following information on 17th September 2003 about some of the graves of the Dumvilles which are still visible in north Yorkshire:

Probably the only grave at Patrick Brompton is the one for Susan Dumville (née Johnson) (1864/65-1889), wife of George Dumville (b 1861). There are others in the area which are directly related to Geoff Brown's family. Thomas (1807-1893) and Mary (1805-1886) Dumville are buried at Healey, near Masham. Their gravestone is not in good condition. James (1856-1920) and Elizabeth (1854-1928) Dumville are buried at Well, near Bedale. Their gravestone is in good condition.

Some memorials to Dumvilles in Snape and Well are mentioned in James Dumville (1856-1920): Biography.

See also:

Photographs of Bramper Farm, north Yorkshire

Photographs of Hunton, north Yorkshire

Map of the towns and villages of the Dumvilles in north Yorkshire